Sunday, May 29, 2011

Book Review: Our Awesome God

Our Awesome God. John MacArthur. 1993/2001. Crossway Books. 176 pages.

Who is God? In his book, The Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, said God is an invention of man. We desperately need security, he wrote, because we have deep-seated fears of living in a threatening world in which we have little control over our circumstances. Freud claimed that we invent God as a protective father, and he suggested three reasons for our doing so.

His first reason is that we fear nature--we fear its unpredictability, impersonality, and ruthlessness. Because we all see the frightful reality of disease, famine, and disasters against which we have only a nominal defense, Freud assumed that we postulate a supernatural being who can deliver us...

Another reason for inventing God, Freud claimed, is our fear of relationships. Because people often feel used by others, Freud assumed it was natural to conjure up a divine umpire--a cosmic God with a super-whistle who ultimately stops play and penalizes people for what they have done. He made the commonsense observation that we all want someone who can right the wrongs of injustice. Freud also attributed this supposed invention of God to the fear of death. He claimed that we want a heavenly Father who will take us to a happy place, which we call heaven. It's hard to face the fact that we might cease to exist forever.

What about Freud's claims? What are we to think of them? To begin with, his view of religion is rather simplistic. It's human nature to prefer that God not exist. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to hide from God. To be free from the God who calls sinners into accountability has been a constant goal of humanity throughout history...This knowledge of God is planted within each person, and the fact of God's existence is abundantly evident in creation.

However, even though every man and woman on earth knows of God's existence, they "do not see fit to acknowledge God any longer" (Romans 1:28). They reject God's self-revelation and refuse to acknowledge His glorious attributes. Freud had it wrong: People do not wish to invent the true God; instead they wish to deny His existence...

I enjoyed reading Our Awesome God. I found it well-written and reader-friendly. It is one of those straight-forward, commonsense books. Essentially what you see is what you get. Here are the chapter titles: Our Triune God; Our Faithful, Unchanging God; Our Holy God; Our Omniscient God; Our Omnipresent God; Our Omnipotent God; The Wrath of Our God; The Goodness of Our God; Our Sovereign God; Our Father God; The Glory of Our God; The Worship of Our God. I like the focus on the Bible. I like the focus on truth.

It is easy, perhaps, to create God in our image. To rely on how we ourselves imagine God to be. To rely on our feelings and perhaps even our experiences. We find it easier to believe that God is who we imagine him to be. We put words into his mouth. We rewrite the rules. We "fix" it so that our God does not conflict with our selfishness, or conflict with our culture. Perhaps because we want to make God easy to understand, easy to accept. We want to erase the so-called "hard truths" or "hard sayings" of the Bible. We want to have the freedom to delete at will those things that make us squirm, those things that make us uncomfortable, those things that leave us with questions.

In his introduction, MacArthur writes,
Believing the wrong thing about God is a serious matter because it is idolatry. Does that surprise you? Contrary to popular belief, idolatry is more than bowing down to a small figure or worshiping in a pagan temple. According to the Bible, it is thinking anything about God that isn't true or attempting to transform Him into something He isn't.

God Himself pointed out the fallacy of idolatry, saying of man, "You thought that I was just like you" (Ps. 50:21). We must be careful not to think of God in our terms or entertain thoughts that are unworthy of Him. It is perilously easy to do both. (7)
He further writes,
We tend to let our culture instead of our Creator determine what we value. Those values influence our thoughts about God and shape the way we relate to Him in our daily experience.

The only way to know what God is like is to discover what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture. The revelation of God's nature falls into different categories of attributes, which in their totality define His character. (8)
And then goes on to say,
It involves more than just believing there is a God. It means believing in the only true God as revealed in Scripture.

Having faith is believing that what God says is true. The content of the Christian faith is God's revealed Word. (13)
Because this book relies on the Bible, because its intent is to share the essential truths of who God is as revealed by the Bible and nothing but the Bible, it is a valuable book for readers. It is rich in truth. It is practical. Perhaps readers are skeptical that any theological book could really be practical. But I believe--strongly believe--that without sound doctrine, without sound teaching, without being well-grounded in the Bible, in essential Bible-truths, one's faith is at the very least weaker than it should be. I believe we're called to stand firm in our faith, and we're called to grow in truth. Readers need foundational truths and reading theology--so long as the theology you're reading is Bible-based, Bible-focused--can prove beneficial.

Knowing who God is? Well, it doesn't get more essential, more foundational than that. It is critical for believers to know who God is; it is critical for readers to know how God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. For our worship to mean something--or something more--we need to be worshipping the one, true God. Not the God that we create in our own image. Not the God we have fuzzy feelings about--and by fuzzy I mean vague not warm and fuzzy--no, we're called to worship God in spirit and truth.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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